IRVING, Texas -- Football can be an incredibly simple game sometimes, and I think the biggest aspects of Sunday's are the obvious ones.
You can watch all the tape you want, but at the end of the day I think it boils down to two big matchups. The Cowboys' league-leading rusher and his offensive line are going against the league's best run defense. On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense -- which has been susceptible to big plays -- is going against a home run offense.
Those two points are the keys to this game.
Cowboys Win If:
In listening to Scott Linehan talk about the balance that his offense has, regardless who they face on defense, it is imperative that they continue to maintain that balance for success. Linehan pointed out that it is the collection of players that allows him to call the game the way he does.
I absolutely believe in what Linehan is saying, but I would take it a step further and offer that it's his offensive line that is the main reason for this balance. I do not believe the Cowboys can become one dimensional in this game and expect to win. They are going to have to have success running the ball like they have had all season and keep these down and distance situations manageable. Where the Lions get you, much like Seattle, is when they put you behind the chains then unleash their pass rush.
Last week the Packers found success on early downs running the ball off the edges -- mainly at Jason Jones -- and Ndamukong Suh. I was encouraged by what I was seeing due to the fact that I didn't feel that the Packers were better up front than the Cowboys, and they were able to create space for Eddie Lacy. For the Cowboys to win this game it is going to come down to how well they are able to control this Lions defensive front by running the ball and maintaining that balance that Scott Linehan believes is important for their success.
Lions Win If:
When these two teams last met in 2013, it was the ability of the Lions offense to hit on the big play that was the difference in the game. Calvin Johnson had a career game receiving and Matthew Stafford threw for over 480 yards.
This Cowboys defense is now much better than what Stafford and his teammates faced that day, but the plan still remains the same – hit on those big plays. Offensively, the Lions are as explosive as any team the Cowboys will face all season with the combination of Johnson, Golden Tate and Reggie Bush. The Lions have struggled to run the ball all season, and I believe that trend will continue against a Dallas defense that over the last three weeks of the season has allowed an average of 60 yards a game.
Look for Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi to test this Cowboys defense down the field with Johnson and Tate along with a dash of Bush underneath to generate offense. In games where Matthew Stafford throws for 350 yards or better, his record is 10-6.
For the Lions to win this game they are going to have to throw the ball and throw it well, and what we have seen from Matthew Stafford in the past he is more than capable of doing just that.